NCE ProCab/ Powercab Mods & Tips

A lot of this information is from Mark Gurries, who maintains an excellent web site: https://sites.google.com/site/markgurries/home/nce-info

Cables:

Often confusing, the systems come with a number of different type cables, which all LOOK like ordinary phone cables. There's actually only 2 types, which are NOT the same as you buy off the shelf in stores.

First a bit of education, the connector you see is an RJ11/12, it can have from 2 to 6 contacts.

Cab cables: 4 pin straight through - look carefully, the ones used for connecting an ordinary cab to the cab bus have 4 contacts, and the wires are "straight through", i.e. pin 1 on one connector goes to pin 1 on the other. (normal phone cables usually have the wiring reversed between the ends) One common cab cable is the coiled one. You will encounter some that are of flat cable.

Cab cable for powercab only - 6 pin straight through - if you have a powercab, and want to use it to power a layout, then you need a 6 pin cable, and it's usually a flat cable. The extra 2 pins carry the track power. This is also a straight through cable, unlike ones you can get from home depot. Do not use for a cab cable for a ProCab or using as a normal throttle in a "standard" setup. "PowerCab mode only"

Flat - 6 pin cable straight through - Cable for UTP panel to panel, RB02 wireless base station, wireless repeaters - same as the Cable for the powercab, 6 pins, straight through

Cab addresses

 

Special considerations for PowerCab:

Apparently Powercabs and Procabs used in a system where the PowerCab is powering the track can use addresses 2, 3 or 4 only. When using the USB interface, it defaults to address 3, so set your PowerCab to address 2,and if you use another cab, set it to address 4. Also, be sure to put the PowerCab in the right hand socket of the "plate", assuming the LED is on top.

Special considerations for PowerCab with SB3a (5 amp booster):

This combination only supports 4 cab addresses.

great page on addresses: http://members.optusnet.com.au/nswmn2/CabAdd.htm

Tips for the command station:

You might want to split the cab bus right at the command station. I ran one line to the wireless base station (RB02), and the other to a long phone cord to have at least one wired cab. Remember to use a splitter that has 6 pins, not the normal 4 pin ones, and that splits the line the same to all ports, not tries to split out line 1 and line 2. You can often get these at Home Depot as well as Radio Shack.

Tips for best performance, powering the booster:

My best tip: use a regulated DC power supply. The booster will take a maximum of 22 volts AC or 27 volts DC.

An unregulated AC supply (transformer) will have noticeable voltage sag under load, there is no getting around this. This not only exhibits itself as slower speeds when more locos are running, but it can even affect reliable operation if the load makes the input voltage fluctuate. It happened to me.

Changing to a regulated DC supply allows two benefits:

  1. Consistency of operation, trains will run the same speed no matter how many are running at once (the regulated part).
  2. You can run the output of the system higher, which is necessary for many trains to achieve a prototype top speed. If you have an AC supply running 22 volts unloaded, then under load it sags 3 volts, you will notice the slowdown. You cannot run a higher voltage, because you will exceed the system rating unloaded. With a regulated DC supply, you can give it 27 volts all the time, so you have the potential for 24 volts to the rails, which I have done (read more below)

Setting output voltage:

You need to set the maximum output voltage at the booster. As delivered it is usually set at a max of about 16 volts, way too low for Large Scale.

Turn the output voltage up full. There is a hole in the back of the booster to do this, and if you are using the screw hole, you turn it clockwise, looking from the back panel and going through the back panel to engage the trim pot.

Note: I do not recommend doing it this way because it is easy to damage the pot, and the holes don't always line up, and you may not "feel" the pot correctly. Also, this normally does not really turn it all the way up.

Better, safer method: take off the cover, and look at the unit from the front to the back, front panel closest to you. You want to rotate the trim pot counter clockwise now. Look at the trim pot, it has a metal front, an insulating layer of light brown (bakelite) and then to the very back is the plastic adjuster, usually blue. It has a small tab that you can see move as you rotate the adjustment. Normally this tab is at the 12 o'clock position. Turning with a screwdriver usually gets you to about 10 or 9 o'clock.

Look closely at the base where the circular part stops and the base flares out. The blue tab needs to nestle right there, putting it in the 8 o'clock position. I had to GENTLY help it there with a screwdriver. BE CAREFUL! Excessive force is not necessary, and you will break the trim pot.

When you have done this, you can expect a max of 20.1 to 20.3 volts rms DCC to the rails, given your DC power supply is at least 3 volts above that.

You may still have trains running slower than you want, remember you lose about 3 volts in the decoder, so 20 volts to the rails might be 17-18 volts to the motor. If you cannot get a good top speed you can do what I did. I contacted NCE and they modified my booster to put out 24 volts.

Tips for all cabs:

Yard mode does not work if you have the "radio fix" turned on. It's on by default. You should be running the radio fix if you have radios.

Avoid address 8 on procabs, avoid address 49 on engineer cabs... addresses 0, 1, and 18 are reserved for all cabs.

Addresses 2-17 update the screen on procabs, procabs outside this range will work, but their displays will not be updated.

Tips for the wireless throttles/cabs:

On the radio procab, the timeout value is TWICE what you select. Set to 0, it never turns off.

The backlight can be extended for 10 seconds by hitting the shift button (not the enter key).

Get the radio upgrade if you have older throttles, it is GREAT! $25 to retrofit, and the range is greatly enhanced. Also, the system seems to react more quickly (that's also from the better signal).

With the newer radios, some people use the smaller 1/4 wave antennas, as opposed to the 1/2 ones supplied. I'm fine with the larger antenna, but you can get the smaller ones from Digikey, ANT-916-CW-RH-ND, about $6 I think.

Weatherproofing the wireless base stations:

These base stations are somewhat fragile, easy to break the connector loose. Also, the sun will make the black label curl up and distort. Mainly, they are not weatherproof. I used to put them in plastic bags, but the sun rotted them. So for now, I made a bulletproof enclosure from parts at Home Depot. The antenna is inside the plastic pipe, and I have a small block of non-porus material supporting the base station inside, keeping it off the bottom and pressed up against the underside of the cover, I'm using a handful of bubble wrap. Notice that I notched the top of the case, but not the lid, so water cannot get in.

 

Batteries for wireless Procab

Replacing batteries: the batteries are hard to keep in place, the spring contacts are way too strong. They will not stay in place to allow you to just put the battery "door" on.

Put all 4 batteries in place, and hold down right where all 4 meet in the center with your thumb. Make sure the ends of the batteries are down in place firmly. Lay the door on the batteries, and then keep pressure on it as you slide the door up to your thumb, and then past. (This tip from R.J. De Berg.)

Have spare batteries around, when they get low, replace them, don't struggle on. A battery tester is a good idea if you are having problems and you think it's the batteries.

Turn on difficulty on Procabs

Sometimes pressing the emergency stop button does not turn the cab on the first time. Try either pressing the side of the button, or press the enter key at the same time. The emergency stop button has a second set of contacts, and there is a design issue that can make this happen. It can vary from cab to cab.

There is a turn on fix for the radio if you want to solder: Click here for Mark's fix

Apparently you should avoid setting cab address 8.

Functions over F12:

You can program the option button to access functions 11-28. Go into cab setup mode (power on cab with select loco button down).. set value for option button from 94 to 122. Now when you hit the option button, buttons 0-9 access functions 10-19.. press option a second time and buttons 0-8 access functions 20-28.

EXTENDED FUNCTION CONTROL (F10 - F28)
Control of functions F13 through F28 has been added. To access these unction numbers program the OPTION key to a value of 122 (see CAB
SET UP, below).
Pressing OPTION will display "F10 through F19 on the bottom line of he cab.
Pressing a digit will toggle that number plus ten. For example: pressing 6 will issue an F16 command.
Pressing OPTION a second time will display "F21 through F28" on the ab. Pressing a digit with this display will toggle that number plus wenty.
Pressing OPTION a third time will return to the F10 through F19 isplay.

Pressing Prog/Esc at any time will abort the operation.

To set this up, you need to set the option button programming from the stock 94 to 122. (I need to put the option key programming here)

Radio system just "quits":

Recently my radio system just failed to work. The radio cabs booted up to the first screen, but not the second screen where you see the loco number, the time, etc. The light on the cab did blink fast like it should, and the RB02 appeared to be dead.

I called Larry at NCE and asked about sending in for repair. He told me that sometimes the layout ID changes in the RB02, and referred me to page 6 of the RB02 manual. Well, that was it, it had changed to 1 from zero. Great, saved me a couple of weeks!

(RB02 units come default at layout 0, I had used layout id 1 to avoid problems)

The setting of the Layout ID in the RB02: (be sure you have the layout ID the same on the other radio cabs too)
1. Unplug the RB02 from the cab bus. Do not turn off the system power.
2. Plug a ProCab into the PORT A connector of the RB02 using any standard Cab Bus cable. If a repeater cable is in the expansion port, remove it.
3. Restore the Cab Bus connection to the RB02
4. Type the desired layout id number then press enter.
5. Unplug the ProCab from Port A to enable the RB02, It will not operate until you remove the cab.
6. Restore any repeater connections that were disconnected in step 2.

This has happened a couple of times. Maybe the best thing is to use always use zero at your own layout?

 

Programming options

 

1: standard decoder setup, will automatically try direct programming mode, and if it fails, will select paged mode, you set addresseses and other stuff here, and then after the setup choices, you can set individual CV's

2.  set any cv, this is normal direct cv programming

3. register programming, old style programming, registers 1-5 correspond to CV's 1-4 and 29 respectively. Some old decoders need this.

4. paged programming

5. same as mode 1 but only use direct programming

6. set up NCE lighting effects (I believe unique to NCE)

7. Recovery program, displays the cv's set one by one as it does it (Need to list these)

 

Checking Software versions:

(in general, you should be at the latest version of firmware in all units. All the updates that are done that I have seen are bug fixes or performance updates).

Cabs:

When you first apply power to the wired cab or turn on a wireless cab, it presents it's version. (the firmware version flashes by quickly on a wireless cab)

Current versions: (as of Jan, 2009)

Wired cabs:

Firmware version - 1.3

Radio cabs:

Firmware version 1.3

Radio - 1.5

My cab status:

cab number      wired/wireless firmware version radio version
2 wired 1.3 N/A
3 wired 1.3 N/A
4 wireless 1.3 1.5
5 wireless 1.3 1.5

Command station:

To get the firmware version of the command station, go into program, then select set command station:

Current version: (as of Jan 2008)

March 1 2007A

My command station status:

March 1 2007A

Radio base station status:

When configuring, the screen says "NCE PROCISION 1.0"


Programming:

 

Programming Tips:

Sometimes the horn will not stop blowing after releasing the button. Try increasing the "horn off packet" from 2 to 4.

In accessory mode, NCE uses different terminology than other manufacturers, so here are the equivalents:

System Normal Thrown
Digitrax C / closed T / thrown
Lenz + -
MRC on off
NCE normal/on/1 reverse/off/2

Cab & track termination:

from Mark Gurries on the NCE forum:

1) Track Bus RC filter: 100 Ohms with a series 0.1uF Cap.

The 0.1uF centers the filter's frequency to focus its work on the
typical noise we are fighting on the track.

The resistance value is not as critical in making it work but the value
does determine the strength of the filter.
50 Ohms (Strong) Needs high power resistor. 2Watt for HO.
100 Ohms (Standard)
150 Ohms (Minimal)

For the latter two, more information is found here:

http://www.wiringfordcc.com/track_2.htm#problem_blown_solution

2) Cab Bus Terminator: 120 Ohms with a series 0.01uF cap.

This terminator is less common in terms of discussion. This RC filter
IS really intended to be a bus terminator per the cab bus RS-485
standards. The 120 Ohm matches the typical phone line cable impedance.
The 0.01uF primary purpose is only to reduce current draw on the cab bus
and less about frequency. 0.1uF will work but the larger cap value will
start to increase the dynamic current draw more than it needs to be. I
use 0.01uF myself.

NCE system notes

24.3 dc input minimum required for 21.5 output.

Weather Underground PWS KCACARLS78